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Aceh Rebels Not Satisfied With Indonesian Government Offer - 2002-04-20


Rebel leaders in the Indonesian Province of Aceh say they are not satisfied with an Indonesian offer of "special autonomy" for the province. Indonesia's security minister has been in Sweden discussing the peace offer, but leaders of the main rebel movement in Aceh say it is not enough.

The Indonesian statement backs greater autonomy for the resource-rich province of Aceh, but not full independence, something the rebels have been demanding.

Teungku Agam, a spokesman for the main rebel force, says the Indonesian offer does not go far enough. He says his organization the Free Aceh Movement, known as GAM, has not changed its goals.

He spoke to VOA via telephone from a rural area in Aceh, and chickens can be heard in the background as he speaks. "The majority of the people of Aceh, the people in Aceh now, suggest that we should have independent nation, other than just together autonomy from [the] central government, Indonesian central government. … Our long-term goal is to have an independent nation," he said. The statement released in Stockholm Friday came at the end of a visit to Sweden by Indonesia's security minister, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. He sought Stockholm's help in persuading Acehnese exiles living in Sweden to accept an autonomy deal.

Teungku Agam said GAM will resume talks with the Jakarta government next month in Switzerland. He said, however, that GAM's representatives will not agree to an autonomy deal.

The Aceh independence movement has been fighting the Indonesian government since the mid-1970's. Jakarta maintains a large force of soldiers in the province to try to quell the rebellion. Rebel groups and human rights activists say the fighting has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people on both sides.